Safe and Effective Messaging

When sharing messages about mental health issues and suicide, it’s important to do so in a safe and effective way. You want to make sure you are helping people rather than discouraging them, especially in times of vulnerability. Here are some resources, guidelines and quick tips to learn more about safe and effective messaging.

Always Promote Help-Seeking

  • You are not alone
  • It’s ok to ask for help – it’s available and a sign of strength
  • Treatment works
  • If someone discusses their personal struggles/experiences, it’s important to say they were able to work through tough times because they reached out for help


Language for Talking about Suicide

  • Say, “died by suicide”; “lost to suicide” instead of “committed suicide” or “shot themselves”; “killed themselves”
  • Say, “suicide attempt survivor”; “did not die in a suicide attempt” instead of “failed suicide attempt” 
  • Do not discuss death in detail or means used 
  • Avoid describing death by suicide as an “epidemic/crisis,” or using dramatic terms like “skyrocketing” or “trend”

For more information on safe messaging about suicide, visit the Action Alliance Framework.

For more information about suicide visit What You Need to Know About Suicide.

Language for Talking about Mental Illness

  • Say “They are living with a mental health condition”; “They are living with / They have been diagnosed with”; “They have schizophrenia / They are living with schizophrenia” instead of “They are mentally ill”; “They are schizophrenic”
  • Say, “They are experiencing symptoms of” instead of “They are psychotic / disturbed / crazy”

General Messaging

  • Everyone struggles at times, but if a problem is lasting too long, is too intense or feels like more than you can handle, reach out for help
  • It’s important to learn the warning signs of suicide, self-harm, and substance abuse.
  • Look for changes in behavior, personality.
  • It’s ok to ask for help – it doesn’t mean that you’re weak, or just want attention. Everyone needs help from time to time, and if you or a friend is struggling, you should reach out to talk to someone right away. 
  • Trust your gut – if you’re worried about yourself or a friend, don’t hesitate to act and get help. You don’t have to know what is wrong-just that they’re in trouble or struggling.
  • Be direct with your friends – tell them you’re worried and why, ask them how they’re feeling and offer to reach out to a professional and/or family member with them or for them.

More Info

  • Typically, there is mental illness in the context of suicide. Treatment of a mental health condition can make a tremendous difference in someone’s life.
  • Suicide is a tragic, permanent action and should never be the solution to a problem.